K. Michaels

On Our Programme

(May 1954)

From Socialist Review, Vol. 3 No. 9, May 1954, pp. 7–8.
Transcribed by Ian Birchall, Nina Kidron & Richard Kuper.
Marked up by Einde O’Callaghan for the Marxists’ Internet Archive.

This is the fourth of a series of articles devoted to the programme featured on the back page of the Socialist Review. This article will deal with point 5.

The British Labour movement has just passed through a period of wage claims in both nationalised and private industries. Without exception the original claims were submitted to arbitration boards and whittled down to ghosts of their former selves, while months were consumed in arguing with the bosses about the size of their profits, whether they could or could not give a rise. While the arbitration boards were being won over by the bosses’ sighs, dividends boomed – the average rise in 1953 being 15 per cent. What are we to believe, word or deed? The only way of finding out the bosses’ real financial position without fear of contradiction is by opening the books. Workers’ representatives must have access to all the documents.

We hear rumours about the monopolies that straddle the British economy. We hear that they suppress new inventions by buying up the patents and not using them, of prices that bear no relation to costs, of mergers with foreign concerns, – all at the expense of the British consumer. These rumours are vigorously denied. What are we to believe? The only way of finding out the real situation and resolving the contradictions is by opening the books. Workers’ representatives must have access to all documents.

Big business has no local patriotism. Since the Morris-Austin merger last year, for example, the internal rearrangements between the monopoly’s various plants threaten the Oxford Morris works with redundancy. Products are produced or not produced in accordance with uncontrolled and secret international agreements – remember the pre-war pact between the U.S. Standard Oil Company and the German I.G. Farben industry whereby Standard Oil prevented the production of synthetic oil in Germany in exchange for the non-production of synthetic rubber in America – while redundancy, unemployment, and high prices are not taken into account, and are said to be impossible to prevent. Are we to believe it? The only way of finding out is by opening the books. Workers’ representatives must have access to all documents.

Government is an appendage of big business. Whether it is a matter of arbitration tribunals, the use of troops as blacklegs, the guarding of investments in the colonies or the declaration of war when the War Department buys their planes, their guns, their clothes, when markets are steady, prices high, and wages low in the interests of “national” defence, whatever the situation the government serves the bosses. The only way of showing clearly how parliament is responsible to big business is by opening the books. Only when this knowledge is common knowledge will there be a government responsible to the people, a real Socialist government.

To safeguard our living standards and our very lives we workers must demand: Open the books.

“Two or more workers’ representatives to sit on boards of all private concerns employing twenty or more people with access to all documents.”

The demand is not limited to private concerns. When dealing with Point 4 of the programme in the April issue, K. Michaels stressed the need for workers’ control of the nationalised industries which includes, of course, “access to all documents.” – Editor

Last updated on 16 February 2017